Identity Theft Stories: Another Reason You Shouldn’t Share TMI Online by Anastasia Goodstein
I'm sure your parents have warned you about posting too much personal information on the Internet. The reason almost everyone gives? Sexual predators. While there are definitely sexual predators online who are looking for kids and teens to chat with, the reality is that most of you guys are pretty smart about ignoring these creeps or telling them to buzz off. If you encounter anyone sending you sexually-explicit messages online, you should always report their profile to the site's administrators. The chances that a predator will just see your blog or profile and show up at your school without ever having interacted with you online are very slim.
There is another reason you shouldn't put too much personal information online —it's called identity theft and there are many identity theft stories out there. This is what happens when a criminal can pull together enough of your personal information to use for their own financial gain. Identity thieves have been very attracted to social networking sites like MySpace and Facebook because there are lots of teens on them with NO credit history. That's right, because you aren't applying for credit or jobs or renting an apartment until you're older, most likely nobody is checking your credit reports. Identity thieves need just enough of your personal information to apply for credit cards and make a mess of your financial life. Identity theft can ruin your credit score for years, making it really hard for you to get credit cards, rent apartments, or buy a car. It can take you (or your parents) hundreds of hours to clean it up.
Here are some simple tips to make sure you're not posting TMI for identity thieves: Limit the amount of personal information you post on your blog or profile. While you're under 18, don't post your full first and last name on your blog or social networking profile —make up a fun nickname or pseudonym to use instead. Never post your social security number, driver's license number (if you have one), cell phone number, or home address.
Be careful what you blog. If your blog is public, don't post stuff like when your family will be away from your house for vacation or other long trips —a clever criminal can try to figure out where you live and take advantage of your family being gone, raid your mailbox, and find all sorts of personal information.
Watch out for email scams or "phishing." If you still check your old-fashioned Web email account, be very careful of spammers who send emails asking you for money or any other personal information. Don't click on any email attachments unless you know who sent them. Just hit delete.
Be wary of quizzes or other online surveys that ask you to enter lots of personal information. Make sure any site you have to register to join is secure and legit. Be weary of contest sites advertised through pop-ups or associated with any brand or company you are not familiar with. If you're shopping online, most likely you have to use your parent's credit card, so make sure they check out the site before you enter in their information.
For more information on identity theft, identity theft stories, and lots more tips, check out this site just for teens: http://www.idtheftcenter.org/teen/teen.html
Read others identity theft stories and learn how to prevent it at BeingGirl.com.